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Now, Anwar working for banks or the people, asks Mahathir

The former leader recalls Anwar's criticism of Tengku Zafrul during the latter's time as finance minister.

Staff Writers
2 minute read
Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad today hit out at Anwar Ibrahim over the country's financial situation, recalling the prime minister's criticism of Tengku Zafrul Aziz during his time as finance minister while Anwar was still in the opposition. 

In a statement, Mahathir said that Anwar had taken Zafrul to task, asking if he was working for the banks or the people in raising the overnight policy rate (OPR). 

"So is Anwar working for the banks or the people right now?" he added. 

"The government's way of dealing with the weakening ringgit and Anwar's answers and views on the matter before and after becoming prime minister do not inspire confidence at all." 

Anwar said in the Dewan Rakyat this week that the decline in ringgit value against the US dollar was also being experienced by other major currencies such as the yen and the Singapore dollar.

Attributing the situation to the strengthening of the US dollar, he said that the ringgit's performance should not be used as a benchmark for Malaysia's economy.

Anwar, who also holds the finance portfolio, added that the rate of economic growth in 2022 had exceeded the pre-pandemic level and was expected to continue growing at between 4% and 5% this year. 

On May 3, meanwhile, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) raised the OPR by 25 basis points to 3.00% – the fifth hike since reducing it to a record 1.75% after the onset of Covid-19 in early 2020. 

BNM governor Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus later said that the decision to increase the OPR was made in light of the strengthening economy, adding that GDP had exceeded pre-pandemic levels, unemployment had fallen, and households remained resilient. 

Mahathir said Anwar had urged the opposition in Parliament to support the increase in OPR as it would help strengthen the ringgit. 

"He said the Singapore dollar had strengthened after the republic raised its OPR," the former prime minister added.  

"Some challenged his statement as the Monetary Authority of Singapore has not had an OPR policy since the 1980s. As far as I recall, Singapore doesn't have an OPR. It has Sora – the Singapore overnight rate average."

Adding that the OPR and Sora had different approaches, Mahathir said Anwar's example was not an "apple-to-apple" comparison. 

"Whether Anwar's reply can be taken as deceptive or confusing to the Dewan Rakyat is up to the MPs to decide," he said.